Thanks to the versatility of revolver design selecting the correct revolver(s) for you is a fairly simple task.
Before you start, understand that commonality and consistency is important. So, if I am going to select small, medium and large versions of the same thing, they should all be the same thing. In other words I want the operational controls and general feel, fit and function to be the same across all 3 versions. I want the cylinder releases to be in the same place, I want the cylinders to turn in the same direction and I want the triggers to feel similar.
This is easily accomplished by selecting a brand and sticking with it. For me I chose Ruger revolvers with one exception.
My tactical revolver toolbox features a 4” GP100, a 3” GP100 and a 2” SP101. All function the same, feel the same, disassemble the same and share the same ammunition.
My sole exception is a Smith & Wesson 637 2” snub that I use for pocket carry. I could add a Ruger LCR to finish the Ruger collection but I have a few issues with the LCR that I may explain later.
If you’re not a Ruger fan this same exercise in commonality could be done with the S&W brand. In fact, before I switched to Ruger my toolbox featured the same S&W 637 along with a 2 ½” Model 66 and a 4” Model 686.
So, what if none of these revolvers work for you? Then you are probably not going to find anything that works for. I have never encountered a single shooter that couldn’t work with all of the models listed above once the proper grips and ammunition were selected.
I will discuss fitting the revolver to the shooter in Part 3
So what is the best tactical revolver for you?
There is no truly correct answer for that question. Lifestyle, body type, hand size, hand strength, and shooting skills are just a few of the factors that will determine what revolver is best for you.
Another factor is that just one gun doesn’t solve the problem.
Much like a toolbox has different sized wrenches for different jobs, you will find a properly equipped gun safe should have different sized handguns for different jobs as well.
Can a person get by with just one gun?
Yes they can. But you will end up with a gun that’s too small most of time or too big to carry all the time.
I prefer the small, medium, large tool in the toolbox approach with the thought in mind that I always follow this one prime directive:
ALWAYS carry the largest gun that you are competent with that can be effectively concealed.
This decision is always based on the environment you will be entering each day.
Environmental camouflage is important to understand. If you have a CCW permit, and would like to keep it, you need to be careful about the clothing decisions you make. It’s also a very good tactic for survival.
Yes, I could conceal a 4” N Frame .44 magnum 365 days a year. But I’m not going to be able to do that without drawing attention to myself in a big way. An example would be attending an event where it’s 100 degrees outside and everyone is in shorts and t-shirts. Now I show up in my cargo shorts and giant Hawaiian shirt with the big bulge. Yes, the gun is concealed and I’m relatively comfortable. But, I’m also the tosser sweating and standing out like a sore thumb in comparison to the crowd around me. Now if I was a bodyguard on a close protection detail this might be okay but is still a poor tactical decision.
This is where you reach into the box for the appropriate tool and downsize a bit and maybe carry a 3” medium frame .357 to cut down the bulge and blend.
Take the same event and add in a bunch of aunts and other assorted family members that are going to be hugging you, or a dating scenario for you single folks, and having to explain that bulge might make belt carry completely impractical.
Back to the toolbox for a J frame snub and some pocket carry.
I will be ripping into pocket carry in another article, but I will state here that I am not a fan of pocket carry. In fact I really despise it. However, having said that, I still find myself several times a year being faced with pocket carry being my only practical concealment solution. So, I keep that tool in the toolbox for just that reason.
A quick side note here related to clothing and environmental camouflage.
5.11 tactical pants, a tactical polo shirt with an embroidered M-4 and some wicked verbiage on it, desert boots and a multicam contractor cap is an entirely acceptable outfit to wear to the range or a gun show (Just don’t forget the tactical folding knife in the right front pocket). But, to the rest of the regular world you look odd. To the bad guys you look like an off duty rookie cop. And they all think you’re armed just by looking at you. Sometimes this works to your advantage. But if you stop in to the quickie mart for a diet Mt. Dew on the way home and happen to walk into an armed robbery in progress you just put a big fat target on yourself. You will not blend here and if they see you before you see them you might take a bullet to the back of the head. Those in the know call this outfit the “Shoot me first” costume. I think of it as the fanny pack of this generation.
Dress to match your surroundings not to draw attention to yourself.
Now, back to the original intent of this article; What is the best tactical revolver for you?
I will address more on selection in Part 2
When we think about defensive shooting scenarios we traditionally tend to think in terms of a standup fight at about 7 yards out in the open. If we’re really creative some cover might sometimes be involved. It almost never fails when I’m watching someone run through their own personal training course of fire I see them run the target out to about 7 yards and shoot for a bit. Then you see them run it out to 15 yards for a bit then back to 3 for some fast spray. Once finished they leave the range with a nice gunfighter swagger and feel ready to take on the world.
So why do we as shooters tend to lay out our training like this? The primary reason is that this is what the FBI studies have told us the “typical” gunfight engagement distances are. But, “typical” for who? That answer is very simple. Typical for law enforcement shootouts. And, those are the only shootouts they study. No one has really studied the “typical” civilian shootout. One thing I’m fairly certain of is that 7 yards is not the predominant engagement distance. For law enforcement shooting 7 yards comes in so often due to the high percentage of shootings during traffic stops. Law enforcement personnel also have a greater degree of control of their environment and often have time to create distance and seek cover that the average civilian shooter does not.
The “typical” civilian shooting incident more often than not happens very suddenly and at very close range. Car jackings, armed robberies, muggings, sexual assaults, unprovoked attacks by the mentally unstable, etc. usually develop very fast and very close and are what we probably should be training and equipping ourselves the most. Tactical training to handle mass shooting events and other acts of terrorism, while interesting and somewhat useful to our training toolbox, should not be our primary focus. You are far more likely to be attacked by a knife wielding nutcase than you are to be the hero in the next Al Qaeda mall attack.
So, if our shootings are going to be close, sudden and unexpected, how should we be training and what equipment is important?
1 – Training
Rapid and efficient presentation of your handgun
Shooting drills from contact out to 3 yards
Shooting then creating distance
Shooting from a “close hold” position
One handed shooting
Presentation, shooting and moving from a seated position
Presentation, shooting and moving from other unusual positions (Prone, supine, etc.)
All of this should be done while wearing your normal CCW cover garments.
Then work from the 7 and beyond
2 – Equipment
It is precisely these types of shooting engagements that make me an advocate of the revolver. Autoloaders run great only as long as two very critical things happen first. The first being that a firm grip on the autoloader is achieved so the slide has a solid foundation to recoil against and secondly that the recoiling slide is not interfered with during its rearward travel. If either condition is violated, an autoloader can, and often will, stop working. Period.
Run a police academy range for a few years and you will eventually see every possible firearms malfunction occur. I will tell you this with 100% certainty; if you do not solidly grip a Glock it will short stroke the slide and result in a stovepipe or double feed malfunction. This also applies to the other polymer and alloy framed autoloaders. Steel framed guns aren’t as bad but it does still happen. And it doesn’t matter what the frame is made of if you’re shooting from a close hold position and the rear of the slide hits you before it gets all the way to the rear. Your gun is now jammed, you only got one shot on target and the threat is still there.
With a revolver the cylinder must turn and the hammer must be able to move. The good news is that both of the operations don’t take up a lot of space and are protected, to one degree or another by the frame of the handgun itself. Bent wrist, limp wrist, one handed, weak handed, close hold to contact shot, the revolver is dead reliable so long as the trigger can be pulled.
That makes the revolver FAR superior to the autoloader for extreme close quarters combat.
Since ECQC is a very likely scenario for me, this is yet another reason for the revolver.
The dictionary defines the word “Tactical” as follows:
tac·ti·cal adjective \ˈtak-ti-kəl\
: of, relating to, or used for a specific plan that is created to achieve a particular goal in war, politics, etc.
So, when we use the word “tactical” to define or describe the use of the revolver, or any other tool or accessory, we are talking about using that tool in a specific way to achieve a specific goal. In this case we are talking about using the revolver to defend ourselves in an armed confrontation. We could also use the terms “combat revolver”, “fighting revolver” or “defensive revolver”. However, “tactical” is the current buzzword for the world we live in so that’s what I chose to use.
In short, you can be assured we are not talking about cowboy action or bullseye shooting here.
So what exactly is a “Tactical Revolver”? Is it a snub? Is it a 3” medium frame? Is it an N frame? Does it have a tac light and use moon clips?
Maybe. Maybe not. I will address that in another article.
What I am discussing here is the mindset rather than the tools used. The gun itself is just the tool you use. The operative portion of the word tactical is more important than the tool used. That operative portion is the word “tactic”. In other words, the tactics you use in conjunction with a properly selected tool that delivers an advantage to you that will help you to survive a gunfight.
How the revolver can be a tactical advantage to you is what this website is about.